In the past, so-called bleaching agents could only be purchased in pharmacies, but nowadays there are various products for whitening teeth in every drugstore as well as via mail order on the internet. There are bleaching strips and prefabricated trays that are filled with a bleaching gel, bleaching pens and bleaching powder as well as bleaching toothpaste. This raises the question of what the individual products are really good at and how the methods differ. Here is an attempt to explain.
How does bleaching work?
Before you use any of the products mentioned, you should first know what happens to your teeth during bleaching: Each bleaching product contains carbamide peroxide – an active ingredient composed of carbamide (a transparent carrier gel that is tasteless) and hydrogen peroxide (which makes teeth whiter). When applied to the tooth surface, the active ingredient can penetrate the enamel and release oxygen radicals, which in turn break down the pigments contained in the tooth substance by chemically changing them. In other words, the teeth are whitened by oxidation and thus become whiter.
What bleaching methods are availible?
- Bleaching strips. A well-known method of whitening teeth from radio and television is offered by so-called bleaching strips. First of all, it is important for you to know that the strips should only be applied after a professional teeth cleaning. Otherwise, this bleaching method will not work. The operation is very simple: The strips are stuck on the teeth and carefully pressed on as soon as they are in the right position – the gums should not be touched. After the recommended exposure time, the strips are removed and the teeth are thoroughly cleaned. Disadvantages of this method are that the strips often do not fit over all teeth and the interdental spaces are not whitened as well.
- Whitening gel. In contrast to bleaching at the dentist with a custom-made dental tray, with this method you get a prefabricated tray delivered to your home. which is filled with gel and then inserted. Depending on what is written on the packaging, you should definitely stick to the recommended exposure time. Otherwise, you will not achieve the desired result. With this method, it is especially important that you carry out the treatment carefully, do not touch the gums and lips with the whitening gel and repeat the procedure several times – until your teeth are whitened. The result is usually quite satisfactory, but not too long lasting.
- Whitening pen. Teeth whitening pens are also advertised for home use. The whitening agent contained in the pen is applied to the teeth with a thin brush, but the trick is to keep the mouth open until the whitening time has elapsed without touching the lips with the pen. Afterwards, the teeth and interdental spaces must be thoroughly cleaned again. The advantage here is clearly the quick and inexpensive application, but the desired result takes longer to achieve. In addition, the whitened teeth do not stay white for long, so the method has to be repeated more often.
- Bleaching powder. Currently, bleaching with activated charcoal is particularly popular. The black powder is used like an ordinary toothpaste and is supposed not only to remove impurities from the teeth, but also to whiten them. This is the theory, and in practice it works at first, but dentists still warn against this method. This is because activated charcoal acts like a kind of sandpaper and roughens the teeth over time or wears away the enamel. Conversely, this can cause the teeth to discolour more quickly – and that would not be the point. Therefore, this method of whitening teeth is not particularly recommendable in the long run.
- Bleaching toothpaste. By far the easiest and cheapest way to whiten your teeth at home is to use a whitening toothpaste. The advantage is that it is no different from brushing your teeth, but the results are not very promising. On the one hand, because the teeth are only cleaned superficially, on the other hand, it is not possible to whiten naturally yellow teeth with the help of a bleaching toothpaste. The active ingredients contained in it are too small for a noticeable whitening effect. Apart from that, the toothpaste often contains so-called abrasive ingredients that grind down the enamel in the long term.
No matter which product you choose at the end of the day: Before you try a bleaching method at home, you should have your teeth thoroughly checked. Only a dentist can judge whether your teeth are suitable for whitening at all. He or she will examine your teeth for caries, exposed necks of teeth and gum problems – these factors speak against treatment with bleaching agents. To understand: If your teeth are not healthy, the active ingredient contained in the bleaching products can penetrate deep into the tooth and damage it from the inside. Furthermore, only a specialist can tell at first glance whether the tooth discolouration is superficial or has its roots in the tooth itself. This is because only the outer discolourations can be removed by you on your own, whereas the inner ones can only be treated professionally by a dentist.
Furthermore, when choosing a product, you should make sure that none of the selected methods contains too much hydrogen peroxide – a low dose of no more than 0.1% is recommended here. Only dentists work with a higher dosage and there is a reason for this: if a bleaching product contains too much peroxide, unpleasant side effects such as irritated or even cauterised gums can occur. If, on the other hand, your teeth are sensitive to cold and heat after the treatment, this is usually normal and will subside after a few hours. If your teeth are healthy and free of decay, most whitening methods are safe – but a visit to the dentist is essential if you want to be on the safe side.
As mentioned at the beginning, fillings and dentures cannot really be whitened as well. In other words, if you whiten your teeth, you will not achieve an even whitening result. Therefore, you should think carefully beforehand whether you want to do it yourself and risk unsightly colour effects – or whether you would prefer to visit a dentist. The dentist works with highly concentrated whitening agents and uses a bleaching lamp or a soft laser so that tooth fillings and dentures are also bleached. The professional method costs a lot more, of course, but it only requires one treatment and lasts much longer. In any case, find out in advance about the best method for your teeth.
Some information about teeth bleaching kits
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